An Unusual New Year

Image: Waveform of a heartbeat, artwork by geralt via

Update: I am sorry to say that my brother passed away after a long battle with his injuries on September 3, 2018. I will say that the High Holy Days will never be quite the same.

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not…

– The Unetaneh Tokef prayer, read on Rosh Hashanah

I’ve been distracted for the past several days. My brother Albert lies in the hospital after a very bad accident. He has not regained consciousness yet, but I am happy to say that we have gotten good reports from the doctors.

Obviously, the circumstances are extremely stressful. The family has gathered at the hospital, waiting for news and wishing we could do more. It’s a time of spiritual yearning. As most of you know, I converted to Judaism as an adult, so I don’t have any Jewish connections in this town. While I know rabbis in many cities, Nashville isn’t one of them. I arrived on Shabbat and Sunday evening would be Rosh Hashanah.

I staggered back into my hotel room after the first day and left a message for my rabbinic colleagues about the situation, including the fact that I needed somewhere to pray on Rosh Hashanah. One of my rabbis back home, Rabbi Yoni Regev, was ahead of me – in a few minutes I had phone calls from two rabbis at Congregation Ohabai Sholom, known as The Temple in Nashville. Rabbi Mark Shiftan invited me to services and Rabbi Shana Mackler made sure I had everything I needed. Both were very comforting; I was barely coherent when we first spoke.

(For my non-Jewish readers: We Jews are a communal bunch. There is comfort and strength and better prayers when a group of us are gathered together. While I have wonderful family here, for prayer I really needed a minyan. It is hard to put into words, but for an observant Jew, there is nothing quite like praying in the midst of ten or more other Jews.)

Because I am a teacher, of course, this is also a lesson:

  1. Every Jew needs a rabbi, and the usual way to have a rabbi is to join a congregation. My rabbi at home used his network to make sure that I had somewhere to go for Rosh Hashanah and pastoral care nearby. When I was too upset and scrambled to take care of myself, he made sure I had support. Without my congregation, I’d have been lost.
  2. It is OK to ask for help – it is imperative that we ask for help when we need it. Had I not put the word out that I was in distress, no one would have known I was hurting. It’s my responsibility to reach out when I have tsuris [trouble.] Privacy is fine, but secrecy festers.

My brother isn’t out of the woods, but the signs are good. I feel better about him, knowing that he has excellent care. Praying for him at services was a great comfort, too. If you would like to pray for him, your prayers are welcome; his name is Albert. He’s a big, sweet, strong man and God willing, he is on a path toward healing.

Wow, what a beginning to the new year! I wish each of you a Shanah Tovah, a good year, a year of blessing and peace, kindness and wisdom!

Albert Menefee

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

35 thoughts on “An Unusual New Year”

  1. Your brother will be in my prayers for a refuah shleimah. Here’s wishing you and your whole family a new year of healing and peace. Shana tova from Jerusalem!

    1. Gamar chatimah tovah, Nth! That’s right, you are in Jerusalem! I am going to scurry over and see if you’ve had time to leave anything on your blog!

      I wish you and your family a great year and a great adventure in 5777!

  2. Thank you for posting about your brother; I had been thinking of you since your last post.

    I’ve read what you’ve said about joining a congregation in other posts as well as this one and you are so right. I have found my congregation and will be joining soon. I have also signed up for one of your classes and look forward to learning from you.

    I have looked in various places for identity and community and the one that is most established and lasting is Judaism. I am a Jew. When I am in need, I want a rabbi and synagogue to help — and I need to be willing to help others.

    Thank you once again for thinking of us blog readers at this time.

  3. So glad to know that Albert is healing well. I love how you put into words that we are a communal people and reach out to help each other. I have always found that to be true. Take care, and here’s hoping for a healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.

    1. Thank you, Belle Rita – I know you are too well acquainted with family crises. Wishing you and your family a year of wholeness and health!

  4. We don’t always get the High Holy Days we expect, but with the image posted, I feared worse. Two years ago our rabbi had a massive heart attack after services. One member, who is also a nurse, was volunteering to help clean up, and recognized the symptoms. We meet at a church just a few blocks from a major hospital, and within an hour of most congregants having left, he was having surgery. These factors helped save his life.

    I am sorry about your brother, but honestly, I am relieved that you are ok. It sounds he is getting better and you have support. Hang in there!

  5. Praying for Albert Refuah Shleimah. And for you and those you love and those close Shana Tova Rabbi. Please keep us posted on Albert’s condition. Who is caring for his dog who must also be in need of compassion and love?

    1. Thank you, Sheila! And thank you for your concern for the animals.

      Albert and his wife live on a big farm with helpful neighbors and some wonderful employees, so no one is being neglected.

  6. So sorry, Ruth! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family for your brother’s speedy recovery and a good year.

  7. Rabbi Ruth, thank you for sharing, prayers for you, your family and for Albert, may the recovery be complete.

    1. Thank you, Meredith! We appreciate your prayers. Albert’s wife told me that she takes particular comfort in knowing so many people are praying for him.

  8. Rabbi Adar, what a sweet face your brother had. I am so sorry for his suffering, & for your loss. A year has passed, but I bet that the grief has not.

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